Probation and Deferred Adjudication in Texas Criminal Cases

The term “probation” applies to a variety of outcomes in criminal cases, usually ordered by a court as an alternative to a jail or prison term. Courts impose sentences based on statutory authority and sentencing guidelines, and they often have discretion to “probate” sentences for a specified period of time. If the defendant abides by all of the conditions set by the court for the duration of the probation period, their case will be closed. If they do not meet all of the requirements, or they commit an act found to be in violation of their probation terms, the state may ask the court to revoke their probation. This can result in the imposition of the original sentence. When probation revocation coincides with another criminal case, the proceedings can appear very confusing. A recent case in a Georgia court, for example, involved a man acquitted in a criminal case but sent to prison anyway because of probation revocation.

Texas uses the term “community supervision” to refer to “a continuum of programs and sanctions” that a court may order. Tex. Code Crim. P. Art 42A.001(1). Two types of community supervision are possible:

– “Probation” generally refers to the suspension of a sentence after an adjudication of guilt, based on either a verdict or a plea. The court enters a finding of guilt or recognizes a plea of no contest and imposes a sentence. Rather than ordering the defendant to begin serving the sentence, however, the court orders that the sentence be probated, identifies the length of the probation period, and sets conditions for the defendant.
– “Deferred adjudication” is a form of community supervision in which the court accepts a defendant’s guilty or no contest plea, but it does not enter a final adjudication of guilt. Id. at Art. 42A.101. The court orders services and sanctions for the defendant, much like with probation.

If a defendant on probation abides by all of the sanctions and completes all of the programs during the court-ordered time period, they can avoid serving their sentence. With deferred adjudication, successful completion results in the dismissal of the charges with no conviction. In some circumstances, a defendant may be able to get a deal for deferred prosecution, which can result in the dismissal of a case without the entry of a guilty or no contest plea. Deferred prosecution is common in juvenile cases in Texas. See Tex. Fam. Code § 53.03.

A judge has the authority to issue an arrest warrant “for a violation of any condition of community supervision.” Tex. Code Crim. P. Art. 42A.751(b). The court may then hold a hearing to determine whether to revoke the defendant’s community supervision. The state does not, in all cases, have to prove the alleged violation of community supervision beyond a reasonable doubt. Id. at Art. 42A.751(i).

If the court revokes a defendant’s probation, it can impose the original sentence “as if there had been no community supervision.” Id. at Art. 42A.755(a). In a case involving deferred adjudication, the court may resume the original criminal case, with a plea of guilty or no contest already in the record.

These blog posts are meant to be illustrative only. Unless expressly stated to the contrary herein, these matters are not the result of any legal work of Michael J. Brown, but are used to communicate a particular point of view. Michael J. Brown does not claim credit for any legal work done by any lawyer or law firm either generally or specifically, with respect to the matters contained in this blog.

For over 20 years, board-certified criminal defense attorney Michael J. Brown has defended people in West Texas against federal and state charges. To schedule a confidential consultation to see how we can help you, contact us today online or at (432) 687-5157.

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